30 May 2013

Bicycling: An Early Ex-Gay Therapy

By now, I'm sure you've heard that Michele Bachmann is not running for re-election.

I'm going to miss her.  After all, how many other people can make Sarah Palin seem--if only momentarily--sane and, at times, relatively coherent?

I mean, it's not just anybody about whom we can say that her assertion that gays can be "cured" is one of the less wacky things she says.  After all, she consulted the most impeccable authority on the subject:  her husband, who runs an "ex-gay clinic".  

Now, why am I mentioning that crazy couple on this blog?

Well, one reason is, of course, that this blog may be the only one in the world written by a onetime boy racer who became a lady rider.  But, in reading about so-called "conversion therapies" intended to make gay people straight, I learned that this sort of thing has been going on for even longer than I'd realized.  As you may know, people have tried to "cure" lesbians and gay men with electroshock treatments, lobotomies, cold baths, physical torture and even attempts to nudge benighted boys and girls to form loving non-sexual relationships with peers of the same gender.

And, for centuries, doctors, athletes and others have claimed that they could "cure" homosexuality through lots of intensive outdoor activity and vigorous exercise.  And, as you know, bicycling falls into both categories. 

So, as you've probably guessed, a physician who was once a respected authority in his field saw bicycling as a way of exorcising same-sex desires.

Graeme M. Hammond was a New York City-based neurologist and competitive fencer.  (He appeared, at age 54, in individual fencing events of the 1912 Olympics.)  Given that he was an athlete of one sort or another for nearly his entire life, it's not surprising that he would think that exercise is "good for what ails ya'."  Nor is it unusual to find that he believed homosexuality to be a neurological disorder, as nearly every physician and scientist who thought about the matter--including Dr. Harry Benjamin--believed the same thing. 

However, what's really interesting about Dr. Hammond's work is the reason why he proposed cycling as a "cure" for homosexuality:  He believed it to be a result of "nervous exhaustion." Cycling, he said, would help to "restore health and heterosexuality" and to cure other nervous conditions.

He also advocated bicycling and other exercise for women because--to his credit--he believed we are the "fighting sex."  The good doctor/fencer thought we would make better soldiers than men 'if only they could "acquire the physical strength and mental discipline" which, he believed, had been denied us through a culture that "mollycoddled" us and promoted "overindulgent lifestyles in regard to diet and exercise."

I like to think he was right about women.  Now, about cycling:  I'm all for just about anything that will get more people to ride bikes.  But now I know one place where I draw the line.  Plus, if you're reading this blog, you have some idea of just how effective cycling is at changing a person's sexual desires--or gender identity!


  1. "Plus, if you're reading this blog, you have some idea of just how effective cycling is at changing a person's sexual desires--or gender identity!"

    True. Cycling is good for many things, but not that!

    I have however, found it to be a fabulous antidepressant. As in, I literally cannot be sad and be on a bike at the same time.

  2. Eternalstranger: I'm glad you appreciated the humor of the last sentence of my post.

    About cycling and depression: I agree with you. I can't recall a time, in all of my years of cycling, when I was "sad and on a bike at the same time."

    Thanks for stopping by.